Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nice people don't make Mormonism true, but they don't hurt either

I was sitting at home this evening, reading blogs and waiting for my wife to come home from work when the doorbell rang.

Since I haven't ordered anything lately from Amazon.com, I knew it was the Church. Which should tell you something about the state of our social life, but that's not the point.

It's been almost ten months since I moved and they finally tracked me down. I suspect my parents were involved, but who really knows? Maybe some data-mining retiree on a second mission for the church finally turned up my postal forwarding order.

I actually recognized the two men standing on my doorstep. When I went to church twice last fall, I only talked to three people, and now two-thirds of them were here. So when they asked if they could come in, I felt like it would have been rude not to let them. After all, I had come to church of my own free will just a couple months ago, it would have been weird to say that now I didn't want any contact.

Both of the guys were very nice and we only talked about our families, sports, and home maintenance. It reminded me that I don't really have local friends or a social network since I moved. I don't know any of my neighbors and I don't have the opportunity to meet new people besides at work.

For perhaps the first time in my life, I felt comfortable around my would-be reactivators. I think it was because I knew that the possibility of me regaining my belief is zero. But that doesn't mean that I can't be social with people who still do believe. There is no reason people with a lot in common can't be friends without any religious overtones.

I realize that part of my ease comes from the fact that I know my wife is an unlikely candidate for Mormonism and my children are still safely ensconced in the future (hopefully). The dynamic changes completely when other family members are involved. But for now, I feel good about our interaction. The only time they even broached religion was to ask me if I wanted home teachers or if I wanted to be informed of ward activities (I swiftly nixed both ideas). I told them that I was completely uninterested in anything religious.

It's kind of nice when church recedes into its proper place (in my opinion) in your life. How much unhappiness could we avoid by just treating church like any other social society? As Ann says, it's just church. It's only taken me 29 years to finally believe it.


Wendy said...

I think it was because I knew that the possibility of me regaining my belief is zero. But that doesn't mean that I can't be social with people who still do believe.

My visiting teacher came tonight. She gave me a couple handouts and instead of church, we talked about how our city is dying on the vine (we no longer have a toy store or book store. Both went out of business after the holidays--woe!).

She knows I'm most likely not going back to church, yet we're friends. Probably the best friend I have, other than family.

Wendy said...

Speaking of nice people and Mormonism...I got in a fight with my very nice Mormon mother over the phone tonight. We were arguing over the Marriage Amendment and my mom mentioned that Mormons are the nicest people around and they aren't discriminating against gay people--it's all done with love in their hearts. At that point my head exploded. :)

Matt Elggren said...

Wendy, you just nailed it. Nice does not make true, and it may not hurt either...but it sure can make for confusion over what is good and/or right.

Ned, I really enjoyed your post...as usual. If the "activators" go away "knowing" that they did their best and you clearly are not interested anyway, as they seem to have done in this case, then there's much less pain all around.

Sounds like a kind of heaven to me. Good work. And don't forget that you have a significant social life out here on the internets. :)

m said...

i haven't been to church regularly for about two years now, but my hometeacher has been coming around pretty much every month, and i enjoy his visits. lately he's been coming by weekly to watch big love since he doesn't have hbo. not sure if that's what the EQP would want him to do, but i think it's kind of funny.

Serenity Valley said...


Years ago, when I was an Episcopalian, RT and I went to South America for six months. We had our mail forwarded to a friend in San Francisco, and RT explained to his ward in Berkeley that he needed them to keep his records there. We weren't moving, we were just traveling, and if they sent his records to his South American ward, the information would have been lost forever in the abyss.

The clerks ignored his request; they sent RT's records on to Salt Lake. Someone at HQ found our forwarded mailing address, and for almost a year--long after we'd come back and joined a ward in our area--some married missionaries pestered our friend in SF, trying to "reactivate" RT. They were convinced he lived at our friend's house. Said friend is a conservatively behaved attorney type, but he's also clearly gay, and we got the impression that the missionaries believed RT was his lover.

Since the SF missionaries were convinced RT was living in sin with our friend and kept insisting that RT did in fact live in their ward, our bishop had difficulty retrieving RT's records so he could baptize me.

Ah, the persistence of the church's member location machine.

NFlanders said...

It's nice to know that others have had good experiences with their VTs/HTs. It gives me hope that you can have a friendship that's not predicated on reactivation.

Wendy-- I had a similar argument with my dad this weekend, but not about gay marriage. I don't think he could handle my views on that topic.

Matt-- It's true that most of my socializing is virtual now. I don't know if that's a healthy thing or not. I guess it's probably just the wave of the future. Our parents had church, and now we have the internet.

M-- Hilarious. You'll know he's in trouble when he starts coming over for the Sopranos.

Serenity Valley-- Great story. I feel for your friend. That's the last time he'll ever do you a favor. I wonder if the ward sent off RT's membership to avoid having another "inactive" on the roster.

Steve EM said...

Interesting. As a believing, but sexually active RM in grad school, I would politely tell new home teachers that I had nothing against the church, but was sexually active and understood there was no place in the church for me until marriage. So there was no reason for them to contact me further. But they would always come back until I learned leaving out booze bottles and my gf’s underwear was to active Mormons what a cross is to a vampire. After I did go back to get right with the church and get married, sometimes I’d catch a smirk on some of those home teachers, like they were thinking, if my wife only knew…………, which of course she did. Active or less active, we Mormons are free entertainment.

Serenity Valley said...


I think someone was just being over-efficient. Our friend is a real sweetheart, and he grew up a nonmember in Salt Lake City, so he knew the drill--he just thought it was funny.